Weber State 41, Dixie State 3: Wildcats run over Trailblazers in 2nd half
Weber State football held to a 7-3 lead late in the first half Saturday night in St. George, holding off Dixie State after missing a goal-to-go scoring chance that would have helped break it open in the first quarter.
With 32 seconds left in the half, WSU cornerback Marque Collins made a leaping interception on a ball from DSU’s Kody Wilstead, landing at the Weber State 48-yard line.
It proved to be a spark the No. 10 Wildcats needed. Weber State scored three plays later for a 14-3 halftime lead, then ran over Dixie State in the second half on the way to a 41-3 victory in front of a record crowd of 8,280 at Greater Zion Stadium.
“I thought it was critical, that interception by Marque Collins at the end of the first half and then the offense took the ball, and went right down and scored. That was huge,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said.
Freshman running back Dontae McMillan rushed 16 times for 151 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown scamper on the fourth play of the game.
Though it was Weber State’s largest margin of victory since a 63-17 win over Portland State on Nov. 11, 2017, there was a cost. As starting quarterback Bronson Barron fought for all 5 yards he needed on a third-and-5 to open the third quarter, he got hit from the side and his knee took an impact, knocking him out of the game.
His status will be questionable as WSU (1-1) prepares to host No. 3 James Madison next week.
“It’s an MCL. It’s hard to tell exactly how bad that is,” Hill said. “Sometimes it’s a week, sometimes it’s two weeks, sometimes it’s four weeks. We just don’t know at this point, the doctors will tell us more going forward. But he’s a tough kid, now, and he’ll do everything he can to get back. He wants to be back.”
McMillan ripped the 52-yarder early in what would eventually set the tone for the Wildcats to total 280 rushing yards across eight players to carry the ball. McMillan got the start because Josh Davis was banged up and WSU decided to sideline him.
“You’ll see Josh Davis again next week. He could have gone tonight but after Dontae broke that long one, it was the right thing to do just to hold him, make sure he’s 100% healthy,” Hill said.
Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics Weber State receiver Rashid Shaheed (22) runs with the football and fights off a tackle from Dixie State’s Malini Ti’a (10) during a game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in St. George.
Dixie State (0-2) answered mostly on the legs of Wilstead, who seemed to surprise Weber with several zone-read keepers. He took a 10-yarder for a first down to the WSU 14, but a false start and a Jared Schiess tackle-for-loss combined to stop the drive, and Connor Brooksby punched in a 31-yard field goal for a 7-3 score.
After that, the Trailblazers couldn’t get much going. Wilstead finished 8 of 13 for 67 yards and DSU rushed for a total of 92 yards. After 61 yards on the field-goal drive, DSU gained just 80 yards over its next 10 possessions.
DSU added nearly 100 yards of offense in two possessions during the final seven minutes, against Weber’s 2s and 3s. Even then, the backups denied the Trailblazers points and several players made plays, including sophomore safety LJ Anderson breaking up a long pass to the end zone.
“The defense, after they gave up the first three points, they didn’t flinch the rest of the game,” Hill said. “And I thought our backups did a good job of getting out of those drives and finding ways out.”
After DSU made it 7-3, Rashid Shaheed returned the kickoff 52 yards across midfield and Weber wasted no time moving the ball, which included the debut of freshman running back Damon Bankston.
Barron threw a 24-yard rope to Justin Malone to the DSU 9, erasing a first-and-20, but the offense sputtered and Kyle Thompson missed a 25-yard field goal.
Dixie’s only real chance to score before garbage time came when Barron had his arm hit as he threw, and was picked off by Colby Williams late in the first quarter to give the home team a 33-yard field.
George Tarlas turned away the chance, sacking Wilstead and forcing a fumble on third-and-1o from the Weber 11. Kalisi Moli recovered for WSU.
That led up to Collins’ interception with 32 seconds left in the half. A pass interference negated an interception of Barron by Malaki Malaki, which would have made for three straight interceptions in succession.
Two plays later, Barron side-stepped a blitz up the middle, then stepped back into the pocket and took a hit as he threw to find Ty MacPherson behind the defense. MacPherson hauled in a 32-yard touchdown catch with six seconds left for a 14-3 lead.
What a way to end the half for @weberstatefb! ????
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— Big Sky Football (@BigSkyFB) September 12, 2021
Barron was hurt in WSU’s first drive of the second half. Junior quarterback Randall Johnson took over, and, after nearly throwing a pick to the sideline, got a boost when WSU ran a fake-punt pass from its own 34. Mackenzie Morgan floated a perfect ball to usual defensive lineman Doug Schiess over the middle and he rumbled for 25 yards.
“It was all Weber State, really, after the fake punt,” Hill said.
Johnson later threw a 16-yard strike to Malone, eventually setting up Kris Jackson for a 3-yard touchdown plunge and a 20-7 lead.
WSU really started to pour it on during the next drive. Johnson dumped a third-down screen pass to Bankston in the flat and he ran for a 31-yard gain, then Johnson connected with Shaheed down the sideline for 24 yards to the DSU 4.
Two plays later, freshman QB Creyton Cooper sliced between the tackles untouched for a 5-yard TD rush and a 27-7 lead.
On WSU’s next possession, crossing into the fourth quarter, Randal Grimes fought for the sticks and an 11-yard gain on third-and-11, Johnson ripped a 29-yard run up the sideline, and Bankston finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown and a 34-7 advantage with 9:53 left.
Dixie State put UNLV transfer QB Kenyon Oblad into the game for his first snaps as a Trailblazer and Ja’Kobe Harris picked off his second pass attempt near midfield. WSU took the ball at the Dixie 45.
Sophomore Kylan Weisser took over at quarterback for Weber State. Kris Jackson picked up a first down on a pair of runs, then Weisser hit Isiah Jackson for an 11-yard sideline gainer to set up Bankston on a tough 21-yard touchdown run with 7:24 left, accounting for the final score.
“Damon Bankston’s going to be a great player, and so is Dontae McMillan, and so is Kris Jackson,” Hill said.
For Weber State’s passing game, Barron finished 10 of 20 for 90 yards and two interceptions, and struggled a bit until the TD pass to MacPherson to end the first half — though his second interception came on a drop from a receiver.
Johnson threw 5 of 8 for 89 yards, Weisser was 2 of 3 for 13 yards, and Morgan’s fake-punt pass was good for 25 yards.
McMillan’s 151 yards came at a whopping 9.4 yards per carry. Bankston added 51 yards on seven carries, Johnson ran for 31 net yards, Jackson added 24, and Shaheed took a 9-yard sweep.
Malone led receivers with three catches for 45 yards. Shaheed had three for 41, MacPherson two for 34, Bankston three for 33, and Grimes had two catches for 15 yards.
Defensively, Tarlas led the way and was credited with eight tackles, including his sack and forced fumble. Defensive stats available online after the game appeared to be incomplete.